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Dr. Salwan: When disaster strikes, rescuers respond

By Dr. Raj Salwan
Oakland Tribune

Posted: 09/14/2009 05:06:15 PM PDT

Updated: 09/14/2009 08:08:40 PM PDT

In the event of natural disasters, millions of people rely on the first responders: police, fire and paramedic squads. Until recently, our animals often were left out of evacuations or rescues.

But today, first responders will have help from some very special animal response teams.

When wildfires ravage the West, the teams are there leading horses and livestock to safety. When floods drown the Midwest, they are there rescuing pets and settling them in temporary shelters. And, when the fierce winds of hurricanes and tornadoes devastate whole communities, once again they are there to help with animal rescue efforts.

“They” are the thousands of volunteers who put aside their jobs and family to help save animals when Mother Nature, or human folly, wreaks havoc.

Finding people to help pets has never been difficult, but recent rough storm seasons and continuing wildfires have taught us that disaster responders and temporary shelters often are woefully unprepared to cope with both people and their pets.

Many animal welfare groups and official Veterinary Medical Assistance Teams often are available to lend aid, but coordination with authorities often is lacking.

Fortunately, a landmark meeting between the National Animal Rescue and Sheltering Coalition, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and many other groups has led to a proposed plan to incorporate the animal coalition membersinto emergency operations in the event of a large scale disaster.

This means that there will be an increased level of awareness, coordination and efficiency for dealing with animals during these tragic situations.

And even beyond natural disasters, many of these rescue teams will help with large groups of animals freed from puppy mills; and criminal activities such as dogfighting kennels; or even animal-hoarding cases.

These animal rescuers are unpaid volunteers who sacrifice a great deal to help the four-legged victims of disasters.

Red Star Animal Emergency Services, as an example, has a roster of more than 100 deployable volunteers who have undergone intense training and are able to help with urban searches, flood recovery tasks, and even veterinary surgery capabilities in their specialized “Rescue Rig.”

American Humane Association also asks that their volunteers complete online training through FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute.

Beyond the need for manpower on-site, disasters often mean that local shelters, veterinarians and other animal agencies are low on medicine and supplies. In addition to logistical and delivery problems, purchasing and delivering relief supplies is also a huge challenge.

Thankfully, the pet and veterinary industries have stepped up to answer the call for money and support through public awareness. After the severe 2005 storm season, the Paws to Save Pets program was created along with the Petfinders.com Foundation and the American Veterinary Medical Foundation.

We should make sure our family, pets and all, are ready to evacuate. Ask you veterinarian about needed vaccinations, preventive care, and proper identification so that you won’t be caught without these when disaster strikes.

Dr. Raj Salwan, a second-generation veterinarian, has been around veterinary medicine for more than 21 years. He can be reached at  www.americananimalcare.com.

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Salwan: When pets who roam don’t come home
By Raj Salwan
Oakland Tribune
Posted: 08/25/2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Updated: 09/01/2009 08:05:16 AM PDT

WITH our impressive array of technologies, like GPS and “smart” phones, you might think that finding a lost pet is getting easier each year.

Sadly, the odds are still against many missing pets ever making it back home.

Isn’t there some way to ensure that your pet will return safely from his wandering?

Everyone loves the amazing stories of dogs and cats that travel long distances to find their way back home or even locate their owners in a new city.

Unfortunately, these happy tales are the rare exception to the rule. For every pet that makes it back after leaving, there are tens of thousands who never live to see home again.

Humane groups and pet industry experts estimate that more than 5 million pets will be lost this year. One pet in every three will be lost at some point in his or her lifetime.

Of those that roam away from home, less than 17 percent of the dogs and only 2 percent of the cats ever make it back to their owners, according to the American Humane Association.

Sadly, most of the rest will be euthanized in overcrowded animal shelters. Newspapers and online ads still tell the sad story of some youngster’s lost pet every day.

Why do we see a continuation of this problem year after year?

First, despite leash laws and other ordinances, many families are reluctant to chain their dogs or attempt to keep their cats from roaming. This is especially true in rural
areas.

Compounding the issue is that there are more than 200 million pets in North America and only a very small percentage have some form of permanent identification.

ID tags and collars are easily removed by unscrupulous individuals or even by the pet in some instances. Microchips help to ensure that the pet has some means of identification, but even these implants aren’t foolproof.

In fact, it is a rare pet that actually has a microchip. According to industry data, only about 5 percent of all pets in North America have microchips. And even the pets with chips aren’t necessarily any safer.

When owners fail to register their pet properly, reunions are delayed or even prevented in many instances. Again, experts from all major microchip companies state that less than 50 percent of chipped pets are registered with correct and current information.

Other forms of identification, such as tattooing, are very rare and obscure. This fact means that a shelter employee or veterinary office may not even note the presence of a tattoo.

Finally, even though they have good intentions, shelters and rescues are often overwhelmed with pets. A microchip could be missed during a hurried exam, or a description of your lost pet might not match what the employee sees in front of him.

Despite these overwhelming odds, you can proactively help ensure that your pet will make it safely home.

First, like so many things, prevention and preparation go a long way.

Neuter your pet to decrease his roaming urges and consider using both ID tags and a microchip.

We all want our family members to stay close to home and to heart. But, like all children, our pets love exploration and adventure, too.

Work with your veterinarian to make sure all your pets are properly identified with tags and/or microchips.

Dr Salwan is a veterinarian at American Animal Care Center

American Animal Care Center is being recognized as the Best Small Business in the district by the assembly in Sacramento.

ABSCESS SURGERY AT AMERICAN ANIMAL CARE CENTER

Abscesses are a common skin condition in cats. They frequently occur as a result of bites during fights. A cat’s mouth has many bacteria, and when a cat bites, the bacteria enter the puncture wound. Because cat teeth are sharp and relatively narrow, the wound often heals over, but the bacteria are trapped inside. The bacteria multiply and the cat’s body reacts by trying to kill the bacteria. White blood cells, mostly neutrophils, enter the area. As the neutophils die, more and more of them move to the area. The result is an abscess.

What is an abscess?
An abscess is a localized accumulation of pus. In the case of abscesses caused by cat bites, the pus also contains many bacteria

Which cats are at risk for abscesses?
Unneutered male cats who are allowed outdoors are at highest risk of abscesses since they are the cats that are most likely to fight. Abscesses can also occur in indoor cats in multicat households. Cat fights and, therefore, abscesses are more likely when new cats are introduced into a household that already has cats.

What are the signs of an abscess?
Abscesses are often swollen, hot, and painful to the touch. If they open, a thick yellowish discharge may be seen, and it often has a foul smell. If an abscess does not open, the cat may become ill. In cats, an abscess is often hidden under the fur, and the first sign of illness the owner may see is that the cat is acting depressed and not eating. The cat usually has a fever.

Abscesses are usually found in those areas that are often bitten during a cat fight – limbs, head, neck, and the base of the tail. If the abscess is on a leg, the cat may limp. The cat may try to bite if the area is stroked or touched because the abscess is painful. Because of the pain, some cats may appear irritable or aggressive.

How is an abscess diagnosed?
If your cat is not eating, has a fever, and a history of contact with other cats, your veterinarian will be alerted to the possibility of an abscess. Upon examining your cat, the veterinarian may be able to see a small amount of matted fur over the abscess. The veterinarian will palpate the cat, searching for areas of inflammation. The fur will be clipped over the affected area, and often a small healing puncture wound can be found. It is often necessary to clip a wide area, to look for multiple puncture wounds, but caused by different teeth.

How are abscesses treated?
After the area is clipped and cleansed, the abscess will be lanced (an incision made by cutting), and drained. A relatively large opening is generally made, so the wound will continue to stay open and drain. The wound will be flushed numerous times with an antiseptic solution. Often antibiotics will be prescribed. In most cases, cats respond well after the abscess is opened.

If the abscess is very large, or deep, it may be necessary for the veterinarian to close the incision after the pus has drained, and then place a latex tube through the abscessed area. The latex tubing is placed through two small incisions above and below the main incision. The tubing keeps two openings in the skin to allow any newly formed pus to drain. The drain also provides a way to flush antiseptic solution through the area for several days, if necessary.

In addition to bacterial infections, other infections can be transmitted by cat fights. These include feline leukemia (FeLV), feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), and rabies.

How can I prevent abscesses?
The main way to prevent abscesses is to prevent your cat from being involved in cat fights. Keep your cat indoors. If your cat is an outdoor cat, have your cat spayed or neutered, since this will make your cat less likely to fight. When introducing new cats to each other, do it slowly.

To prevent transmission of other diseases, keep your cat’s vaccination status current

Wellness Blood Testing

May 15, 2009

Pets age more rapidly than humans. With the aging process changes occur in the function of the body. Some of these changes can be seen from the outside: weight gain or loss, stiffness, dull haircoat, loss of sight or hearing. Some changes, however, occur internally and can’t be discovered without laboratory testing. Unfortunately, by the time symptoms of illness can be seen, in liver or kidney disease for example, organ damage is already in the advanced stages.

In order to detect organ damage in its early stages, when it can be treated most successfully, we recommend annual blood testing as part of your pet’s yearly physical examination once he or she is over 7-9 years of age. This blood testing can also be used to provide a baseline for comparison in the event of future illness, allowing us to identify changes that may assist in faster, more accurate diagnosis and treatment.

Test results serve double duty by providing information before surgery or dental procedures, allowing for safer anesthesia.

Early detection can mean
A longer, healthier life for your Pet.

Living with Feline Leukemia

Feline leukemia (FeLV), a widespread, incurable virus that typically suppresses a cat’s immune system, is the most common cause of cancer in cats. Although some cats are able to eliminate the virus on their own and develop immunity, many others die as a result of cancer or opportunistic infections.
      The disease is spread from cat to cat through bites; mutual grooming; and sharing food or water dishes and litter boxes. Kittens can also contract the virus from their mothers.
      FeLV is species-specific, so humans and dogs are not at risk.
      In 2006, the Winn Feline Foundation reported that 3% of cats in single-cat homes were infected with FeLV. Infection rates are dramatically higher among stray cats and in homes where cats are allowed outside.
      FeLV is highly contagious, so it is important to have your cat vaccinated if it could be exposed to other cats. The American Association of Feline Practitioners recommends all kittens receive the vaccine.
      Infected cats may harbor the illness for several years with no signs of illness. Over time, they may lose weight, become depressed, or develop a fever. Their coats often deteriorate, and they may develop skin, bladder, or upper respiratory infections.
      Your veterinarian can diagnose the disease by conducting a simple blood test called an ELISA.
      Cats infected with the virus live an average of three years.
      “Many of these cats can live reasonably healthy lives for a number of years if they receive proper care,” says Fred Scott, DVM, PhD, interim director of the Cornell Feline Health Center in Ithaca, N.Y.
      If your cat is infected, good nutrition and a stress-free environment are essential.
      “Your veterinarian will talk to you about the importance of maintaining a balanced diet. Also, he or she will ask you about your cat’s lifestyle and look for ways to reduce stress,” Scott explains.
      Scott strongly recommends that infected cats be kept indoors so they won’t spread the virus. If you have multiple cats, have all of them tested, vaccinate any that are not infected, and consider housing infected cats separately.
      “Your veterinarian will want to see your cat on a more frequent basis [than a healthy cat], say, every six months,” says Scott.
      “Between check-ups, stay alert to your cat’s body condition. Once a month, rub your hand over its ribs. You should be able to feel them, but they shouldn’t stand out.”
      If you notice any changes in your cat’s health or behavior, notify your veterinarian immediately.

American Animal Care Center Upgrades to State-of-the-Art Digital X-Ray System

Animals Including Dogs, Cats, Birds, Rabbits, Rats, Mice, Guinea Pigs, Chinchillas, Iguanas and Exotics Will Benefit From Treatments and Diagnostics Performed at American Animal Care Center in Fremont

  
updated 6:20 p.m. PT, Tues., March. 17, 2009

FREMONT, CA – Veterinary surgeons and other veterinarians at the new American Animal Care Center of Fremont are now armed with advanced medical imaging technology. This will allow them to promptly and more accurately diagnose and treat a variety of injuries and conditions.

Digital x-ray systems provide the fastest, lowest dose x-rays available for all the animals served at American Animal Care Center, so they are exposed to less radiation and pet parents don’t have to wait as long to find out what’s wrong with their family friend. Crystal clear, high resolution images also make diagnoses easier and more accurate.

“We provide the most advanced imaging systems that modern medicine has to offer,” said Dr Raj Salwan. “We believe that this technology represents the future of veterinary medicine for high quality pet health care.”

The Diagnostic Imaging Center at American Animal Care Center utilizes the most advanced tools available to help identify pets’ medical issues, including digital radiology. This leads to more immediate treatment and gives doctors, along with the primary care veterinarians who refer patients to them, the chance to share patient information in a much more time-efficient manner.

Digital x-rays provide quicker, clearer and faster images than film x-ray. A digital x-ray is taken and developed in four seconds, eliminating the need to wait. Digital x-rays also provide a better diagnosis. Like a digital photo, a radiograph can be manipulated after it’s taken so staff can view the image in ways that weren’t possible with film x-ray.

The Diagnostic Imaging Center at American Animal Care Center also uses a variety of sophisticated ultrasound equipment and is one of the few hospitals in Fremont and the Bay Area offering ultrasound services. If your veterinarian has advised that your pet needs advanced imaging procedures, a specialist at American Animal Care Center can help. The American Animal Care Center doctor will provide the best imaging and analyses to confirm the diagnosis, interpret the data and follow up.

For more information visit http://www.americananimalcare.info or visit the Diagnostic Imaging Center at American Animal Care Center at 37177 Fremont Blvd. Fremont, CA 94536.

Contact:
Dr. Raj Salwan
http://www.americananimalcare.org/

Accreditation Matters: Routine Laboratory Tests Expose Hidden Ailments

Heartworm. Urinalysis. Total blood panel.
If you’re like most pet owners, you have at one time or another wondered what all those tests mean. And, more to the point, are they really necessary?
The short answer is Yes — but it is always good to ask.
Veterinarians use lab tests to monitor your pet’s health, diagnose a disease or condition, and measure the effects of a medication or treatment plan.
In some cases, pets must be tested before they can receive necessary treatments. For example, the American Heartworm Society recommends testing pets for heartworms before starting preventive medications and annually thereafter.
Many veterinarians recommend running blood tests at each wellness exam to establish your pet’s baseline of values for various things like protein, enzymes, and electrolytes, and to track changes in those values. This information helps your veterinarian detect developing ailments in their very early stages, often before your pet shows visible signs.

Common Laboratory Tests

Preventive:
Fecal (parasites)
Heartworm
Presurgical
Predental
Puppy/kitten
Geriatric
Electrolytes
Liver/kidney/thyroid function
Total blood panel
Urinalysis

Amy Franklin of Denver, Colo., recently took her 9-year-old Labrador, Beijo, to AAHA-accredited Lone Tree Veterinary Medical Center for a complete blood panel before routine dental work.
Such tests are recommended in the AAHA Standards of Accreditation as part of a comprehensive pre-anesthetic plan for dental cleanings and other procedures requiring the use of general anesthetics.
Beijo’s test results revealed a fast-growing mast cell tumor. Mast cell tumors are often fatal because, by the time symptoms appear, the cancer is too advanced to successfully treat. The best chance a pet has of surviving a mast cell tumor is early detection.
Thanks to pre-anesthetic testing, Beijo is cancer-free and sporting clean teeth!
Mary Brussell, a certified veterinary technician who works on the AAHA accreditation team, tells a similar story. Recently she took Reggie, her 9-year-old border collie cross, to AAHA-accredited Mesa Veterinary Clinic, in Golden, Colo., for a geriatric wellness visit, including routine blood work.
Although Reggie appeared healthy, the test results showed elevated kidney values. Christine Horst, DVM, recommended a urinalysis.
The results indicated Reggie was in the early stages of kidney failure. Kidney failure is fatal if left untreated, but because Horst caught the condition in its infancy, and is treating it aggressively, Mary and Reggie will enjoy many more happy years together.

For more information on laboratory tests, including what common tests reveal, ask your veterinarian for the AAHA brochure, Laboratory Testing for Your Pet.

AAHA’s Standards of Accreditation on Laboratory Testing
One-stop testing centers: AAHA requires all accredited practice teams to offer a wide variety of laboratory tests. If your clinic doesn’t perform the tests on-site, it must use the services of an outside laboratory. This means your pet will be able to have the test it really needs, no matter the size of the hospital.
Trained team members. AAHA standards allow only well-trained team members, veterinarians, and veterinary technicians to conduct laboratory tests. Solid training ensures fast, accurate results with minimal retesting, yielding pinpoint diagnoses.
from AAHA

Of the 10 million pets that get lost each year, only 17% of the dogs and 2% of the cats are ever recovered.
“But Fluffy is an indoor kitty,” you may be thinking. “She doesn’t need an ID tag.”
Think again.
A study conducted by Linda Lord, DVM, PhD, an assistant professor at The Ohio State University, found that 41% of people looking for their lost cats considered them indoor-only pets.
“They may not go outside, but it only takes one time to lose a pet,” warns Daniel Aja, DVM, of AAHA-accredited Cherry Bend Animal Hospital in Traverse City, Michigan. “You might have cleaners over, workers who are remodeling, or kids who leave the door open. And indoor pets are probably the most at risk because once they get outside, they’ll get scared and run and hide.
“Also, you never know when a natural disaster might strike. Think about the thousands of animals that were displaced by Hurricane Katrina or by the flooding we’re experiencing most recently in the Midwest.”
That’s why Aja recommends every dog or cat be microchipped. The chips are implanted by veterinarians and cost between $30 and $70.
“It’s a simple procedure that only takes a few seconds,” he explains. “It’s similar to a vaccination, except we insert a chip the size of a grain of rice under the pet’s skin. There’s no need for anesthesia. Your pet may make a little yelp, but it’s just like getting another shot.”
In almost every case, microchips are good for the life of your dog or cat. Millions of animals have been chipped in the past decade with very few side effects. The sterile microchip does not contain a battery and is hermetically sealed with FDA-approved silica glass to prevent leakage.
“If your pet ever gets lost and is picked up by a good Samaritan or an animal control agency, it can be scanned at an animal shelter or veterinary clinic,” says Stephen Barabas, DVM, senior manager of veterinary affairs at Schering-Plough HomeAgain, one of five companies that distributes microchips within the United States.
“If a microchip is under the skin, the scanner will display its unique identification code. Then the clinic or shelter will simply contact the manufacturer or distribution company based on the code of the microchip. The company’s database is searched for the animal’s ID number and the pet owner is contacted.”
Some microchip companies provide additional services such as alerting local veterinary clinics and animal shelters when a pet is reported lost. Barabas says that more than 500,000 pets have been recovered by HomeAgain, more than 95,000 in 2007 alone.
Because the owner’s contact information is stored in the database, rather than on the chip itself, the chip does not need to be replaced each time the owner moves, or if the pet is adopted by someone else.
Unfortunately, some pet owners — as many as 50% — fail to enter their information into the database when the pet is microchipped, rendering the chip useless.
“Don’t assume your veterinarian has done this for you,” says Aja. “Some pet hospitals may fill out this paperwork, but many do not. Also, be sure you notify your microchip company whenever you move or change phone numbers or they won’t be able to track you down.”
He adds, “[A microchip] doesn’t replace the need for a collar tag. In fact, many of these animals are reunited because their collars tell the finder that the pet has been microchipped. That triggers the finder to take the pet to a shelter or veterinarian to have it scanned. That’s why almost all the microchip companies now provide tags for your pet. It really helps speed the process.”
Finally, a microchip is not a global positioning system.
“I had a client come to our office this week who wanted me to tell him where his dog was,” Aja says. “He thought I could check my computer and provide the exact location. Some day we may be able to do that. But, today’s chips are not powered. It’s a radio frequency that’s triggered when you run the scanner over the top of them.”
From Petsmatter, AAHA

American Animal Care Center has been growing by leaps and bounds. We celebrated a great first quarter of 2009.

American Animal Care Center is committed to constant improvement in staff, facilities, and operations to ensure we provide exceptional care to your pet.

Our veterinarians are undergoing special training to further improve the quality of care at American Animal Care Center.